Activision Blizzard CEO Says His Company’s Response to Discrimination Litigation Was ‘Deaf’ – .

Activision Blizzard CEO Says His Company’s Response to Discrimination Litigation Was ‘Deaf’ – .

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick admitted the games company’s response to a California discrimination lawsuit was “muted” amid growing backlash from employees and accusations from a culture working “frat boy”.

“Every voice matters – and we’ll do a better job of listening now and in the future,” Kotick said in a note to employees on Tuesday. “I’m sorry we didn’t provide the right empathy and understanding. “

Kotick’s response came hours before hundreds of employees staged a walkout on Wednesday to pressure the company to do more to address a host of issues, including pay inequity, discrimination based on sex and harassment.

These issues came to light last week, when the California Department of Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit accusing Activision Blizzard – the company behind popular video games such as “Call of Duty,” “World of Warcraft” and “Candy Crush” – to foster a “frat boy” work culture where female employees must “continually reject unwanted sexual comments and advances from their male colleagues”.

The complaint also alleges that “company executives and human resources staff were aware of the harassment and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the unlawful conduct, and instead retaliated against the women who reportedly committed themselves. complaints ”.

The company’s director of corporate communications, Kelvin Liu, called the state’s record and investigation “inaccurate” and “distorted” in a statement to CNN Business following the lawsuit.

Several former employees have detailed their experiences at Activision Blizzard on social media since the lawsuit was filed, and more than 2,000 current and former employees on Monday signed a petition calling the company’s initial dismissal of the lawsuit allegations “heinous and insulting.”

The petition also cited an internal statement by Frances Townsend, former counterterrorism official in the George W. Bush administration and executive vice president for general affairs of Activision Blizzard, in which she would have described the trial allegations as “factually incorrect, old and out of context”.

Wednesday’s walkout aims to “improve conditions for company employees, especially women, and especially women of color and transgender women, non-binary people and other marginalized groups,” according to a shared document. with CNN Business. His leadership requirements include ending mandatory arbitration clauses in all employee contracts, amending hiring and promotion policies to improve representation within the company, and publishing compensation data.

Participants in the walkout are also asking company executives to hire a third party to audit Activision Blizzard’s reporting structure, human resources department and executive staff. “It is imperative to identify how current systems have failed to prevent employee harassment and come up with new solutions to address these issues,” the document said.

In his note to employees, Kotick announced that he had hired the law firm WilmerHale to review company policies “to ensure that we have and maintain best practices to promote a respectful and inclusive workplace.” . He urged employees to contact the team at the law firm led by Stephanie Avakian, former director of the Division of Enforcement at the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.

“Of course, NO retaliation will be tolerated,” Kotick said. He also said the company would do more to support its workers, by creating “safe, third-party moderated spaces” for employees to share their concerns.

“We immediately assess managers and leaders across the company,” he said. “Anyone who interferes with the integrity of our processes for assessing claims and imposing appropriate consequences will be terminated. “

More than 100 Activision Blizzard employees were scheduled to attend Wednesday’s walkout in person outside the company’s Irvine, Calif., Offices, a Blizzard employee told CNN Business, while more than 1,000 others were scheduled to participate virtually.

In a letter shared with CNN Business ahead of the walkout on Wednesday, attendees said Activision Blizzard’s latest responses failed to address several of their demands, including an end to forced arbitration, greater pay transparency and l ” employee involvement in the selection of a third party to audit the processes.

“While we are pleased to see that our collective voices (…) have persuaded leaders to change the tone of their communications, this response fails to address the critical elements at the heart of employee concerns,” the letter said. “Today’s walkout will demonstrate that this is not a one-time event that our leaders can ignore. ”


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